I have never had clients ask for something so new so quickly. 4K? It took them a year to start asking about it (that may have had to do with the price point in the beginning). Streaming Music? That technology existed for years before clients really started to proactively discuss it. But a new Apple TV? Within hours of the announcement, clients were emailing and calling to see when we could install it. I told them all the same thing: Let’s wait until it is available to see if it is worth it and to ensure we can integrate with the existing control system. Well, now that it is here, I feel comfortable giving my clients some advice on it.
One thing we all have to realize is that Apple is even worse than Sonos in integrating with CEDIA-type of products. At least Sonos uses UPnP, which makes pseudo-integration possible. With Apple, however, we have to rely on IR control and absolutely no integration with Siri. Yes, there are hacks around Siri using middleware and something along the lines of a Raspberry Pi, but that’s way riskier than using UPnP with Sonos and is just screaming for future service calls.
So here are my three big takeaways from the few days that I’ve had my new Apple TV
1) The Siri integration is great, for what it does.
It really only works from the main menu, where you can search for movies or actors and get a universal search (across a limited number of apps, so not quite universal – iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Showtime currently). It’s pretty reliable and a lot of fun to use. Siri, however, does not work well within apps from what I can tell at this point, and frustratingly, it doesn’t work with Apple Music or YouTube or any apps other than the five listed above.
2) The ‘Remote’ app is not supported by the new Apple TV.
I am hopeful that this will change and that Apple will fix this, but I don’t know if it was an intentional omission or not. So, currently you cannot use an iOS device and its keyboard to conduct a search. The only options for search are Siri, or the cumbersome on-screen keyboard. IR commands are the same, so if a client does want to upgrade to the new Apple TV, even with the current limitations, it is an easy swap out.
3) I am looking forward to the tvOS and App Store.
Historically I had to help clients decide between Apple TV or Roku (or put in both) to get the best of both worlds (iTunes content with Apple’s ease of use or the variety of content available with Roku.) I also loved Roku’s universal search, but Apple is finally catching up there, albeit slowly. Once the new Apple TV has a robust app store, it will be a powerful tool in our arsenal. Just don’t expect Siri integration to be officially supported any time soon (or at all) and be aware of the limitations that means, especially without support for the Remote app.
So for now, I am advising my clients to wait it out until the new Apple TV is a clearly better choice and to see if integration becomes a little easier. If they do insist on getting one now, I advise them that they may prefer to keep the Siri Remote handy so they can easily search the core apps and will have to deal with the clumsiness of the on-screen keyboard for any other apps they choose to use.
What is your advice to clients for the new Apple TV?